New Zealand First MPs and members will be greeted at their annual conference in Christchurch tomorrow by a rally of firearms owners with a message: thousands of votes are at stake.
One of the organisers, Sam Kircher, said many New Zealand First supporters were also law-abiding gun users, and he expected more than 100 Cantabrians to show up to try to convince the party to pull its support for the Government's second round of gun law reforms.
New Zealand First had staunchly opposed the tightening of gun laws the previous decades, but this year supported the two tranches of reforms that the Government has proposed in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack.
The first round of reforms, already passed into law, outlawed most military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles.
A bill that would implement the second round is currently before select committee. It would, among other things, introduce a national gun register and ban visitors from getting a firearms licence.
There are about 250,000 firearms licence holders in New Zealand, and Police Minister Stuart Nash has estimated that about 80 per cent of the gun-owning community supported the Government's reforms.
But Kircher, who said he voted for New Zealand First in 2017, said there were potentially thousands of votes at stake, and many had previously supported New Zealand First.
"If they do show us some support, we will absolutely reciprocate. We all vote for whoever aligns with our values the best."
He hoped there was a realistic possibility of New Zealand First withdrawing its support for the current bill.
National and Act could benefit from any voter backlash from the gun community; National has suggested amendments to loosen the first tranche of reforms and currently opposes the second, while Act was the only party to oppose both.
"I've spoken to National MPs who have made it clear they were trying to get on side with us," Kircher said.
"I absolutely do think that we can have an effect [at the 2020 election]."
The Government has said the reforms will make New Zealand a safer place, a position supported by police and the Police Association - but gun advocates have challenged that.
The Treasury has also challenged the evidence around whether a gun buy-back scheme would avoid future gun-related death or injury.
Among other issues he had with the current bill, Kircher said a national gun register would cost a lot of money and not stop criminals from using firearms.
NZ First MP Ron Mark, known to be an avid shooter and gun owner, has previously bragged about opposing gun law reform as recently as last year, while Cabinet Minister Shane Jones was photographed with an AR-15 - the type of assault rifle used in the March 15 attack - while on holiday in Thailand.
Kircher, who is a member of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners, said the group was unlikely to target any particular MPs.
"We're not looking to cause a huge fuss. We're just looking to gather everyone who feels the same way about these changes to the Arms Act."